Comradeship in All Quiet on the Western Front: Quotes & Analysis

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

Comradeship plays an important role in Erich Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front. The soldiers all call one another comrade to show the unique bond they share and what it means to them.

Political Propaganda

''Won't you join up, comrades?'' The school master Kantorek plies Paul Baumer and his young friends with these loaded words in Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. The word comrade means friend or ally and carries with it a connotation of equality. Its use was inspired initially by the French Revolution, in which the elite ruling class was torn down and the barriers of class and social standing were dismantled. The word caught on throughout several other countries and was used to signify a more egalitarian society--one in which people are considered equal and should have equal opportunities. As Kantorek (a school master in a position of power) uses the word ''comrade'' to refer to these teenage boys, he is ostensibly elevating them in status. Sadly, the boys eventually discover that Kantorek's words are empty. He wanted only to achieve his desired ends with them.

Strength and Safety

While the idea of comradeship may have been used on one hand as propaganda, it exists in its own right among the soldiers and provides them with a sense of security and strength. Paul tells us that the acute hardships of war ''awakened in us a strong, practical sense of esprit de corps, which in the field developed into the finest thing that arose out of the war--comradeship.'' Esprit de corps is an expression which means a feeling of pride in or belonging with a group. The wording of this sentence suggests that esprit de corps came first and then developed into something deeper, which was comradeship.

The extremity of this bond of comradeship is illustrated as Paul lies terrified during an attack. He finds solace as he hears his comrades come up behind him: ''They are more to me than life, these voices…,'' he tells us, ''they are the strongest, most comforting thing there is anywhere: they are the voices of my comrades.'' When he hears his fellow soldiers approaching, he feels: ''I am no longer a shuddering speck of existence, alone in the darkness;--I belong to them and they to me.'' Comradeship not only helps him to feel strength and safety, it enhances his own existence.

Comradeship Transcends War

In the horrifying incident where Paul kills a French soldier who falls into the shell hole where he is hiding, we see that the idea of comradery extends to all of humanity. Paul sees that even the ''enemy'' is his comrade. They are all human and all suffering in this war. ''I want to help you, Comrade,'' Paul says to the dying Frenchman, ''camerade, camerade, camerade…eagerly repeating the word, to make him understand.'' Not long ago, Paul had been intent on murdering this man, but now he sees his brotherhood with him: ''Forgive me, comrade,'' he begs, ''Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us?''

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